BENAVIDES - The hustle and bustle of the school year often makes it difficult to think of lunch ideas or pack lunches that are full of healthy and smart choices. However, Dinner Tonight has made it easy to send your kids to school with the correct foods that will keep them alert and energized throughout the day!
When deciding what to pack in your child’s lunch, Elaine Montemayor-Gonzalez with AgriLife Extension Service recommends packing foods that fall into the five main food groups – diary, fruit, grains, lean meats, and vegetables - which will provide balance throughout the school day. Providing lower fat options with a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables will also help keep your child’s brain active during the afternoon.
To make the packing process easier, Dinner Tonight has developed a list of steps to ensure you prepare a nutritious lunch that your child will enjoy:
Prep vegetables and fruits the night before – Not only will this save time, but research has shown that kids are more likely to eat fruits and veggies when they are already cut up. Add in healthy sides – Sides such as unsweetened applesauce, cheese sticks made with 2% milk, crackers, nuts, low-fat yogurt, and fruit or veggie cups are simple and easy ways to add variety to a meal. Use portion boxes – Not only do portion boxes help to keep servings in check, but they are also a great way to get your child involved by showing them what foods go in each compartment. Think outside the sandwich – While sandwiches are quick and easy, adding variety is key for both adults and kids when it comes to eating healthy. Instead of making a sandwich for lunch, try a wrap or pasta salad. While what you pack in the lunch might appear to be the key component, Montemayor-Gonzalez says that the storing process is just as important if you want to keep the food and the health of your child safe. Be sure to keep these tips and tricks from Dinner Tonight in mind:
Perishable food can be unsafe to eat by lunchtime if packed in a paper bag. Use an insulated box or bag instead. Before eating, children should wash their hands for 20 seconds (or sing the ABCs twice). If possible, your child’s lunch should be stored in a refrigerator. However, if your child’s school does not provide a refrigerated place to store their lunch, you can use ice packs to keep the food cool until lunchtime. If you’re packing a hot lunch, like soup, chili, or stew, use an insulated container to keep it hot. After lunch, or when your child gets home from school, discard all leftover food used food packaging, and paper bags. To help sweeten up the lunch routine and add creativity to the process, allow your child to help you make a healthy dessert, such as Dinner Tonight’s Banana Apple Muffins! Not only will this be a great way to bond, but it will also be a way for your child to take ownership of their lunch and let the other kids at school know that they helped make the healthy treat. To learn more about the recipe, visit https://dinnertonight.tamu.edu/recipe/banana-apple-muffins/